Case Studies for Lisa A. Anderson

Plaintiff was terminated from employment pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) after she failed to return to work at the end of an 18-month extended, long-term disability leave. Plaintiff was unable to return to work at the end of her disability leave due to neck and back pain, which was a continuation of the symptoms that originally caused her to take disability leave. The CBA provided that employees unable to return to work after a year of disability leave, plus a six-month extension, must be terminated from employment. Plaintiff sued the township and its officials, alleging that she was terminated for discriminatory reasons and in retaliation for exercising certain rights. RSJA attorneys successfully defended against alleged violations of the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act, Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, and the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act. RSJA won summary disposition in circuit court, obtaining an order dismissing all claims. We also obtained a favorable ruling in the Michigan Court of Appeals, affirming summary disposition as to all claims and all defendants.
881 F3d 432 (6th Cir 2018) (briefed and argued on appeal). When the City of Riverview denied a radio broadcaster’s request to modify its equipment on a city-owned telecommunications tower, the broadcaster filed suit. The broadcaster’s proposed equipment modifications would have increased the number of antenna on the tower and occupied ten times more tower space in order to increase the broadcast power from 700 watts to 50,000 watts. The complaint alleged due process and equal protection violations, breach of a license agreement, and violation of the Telecommunications Act. RSJA attorneys obtained an order from the federal district court granting summary judgment and dismissal of all claims. In a published opinion on a matter of first impression, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of summary judgment for the City, finding that no private cause of action was available under §253(a) of the Telecommunications Act and holding that the City’s denial of the equipment modification under the License Agreement was not a regulatory action that had the effect of prohibiting telecommunications services within the meaning of the Telecommunications Act.
2017 WL 5615821 (Mich Ct App, Nov. 21, 2107). Governmental immunity protects communities from being sued for their day-to-day work. But what if they receive money for a function that looks like a business? In this case, plaintiff sought damages alleging that she fractured her ankle exiting a waterslide at a Family Aquatic Center located in a Metropolitan park operated by the Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority (HCMA). To avoid the HCMA’s governmental immunity from tort claims, plaintiff alleged that the HCMA operated the Aquatic Center as a self-contained and self-functioning, for-profit waterpark under the proprietary function exception to governmental immunity. The circuit court denied the HCMA’s motion for summary disposition. RSJA filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals and obtained a decision reversing the circuit court judgment and securing the dismissal of all claims against the HCMA.
2017 WL 2348719 (Mich Ct App, May 30, 2017). An elected official, even one who receives compensation, does not have access to the same remedies as a municipal employee, as demonstrated in this case, where an elected treasurer sued the township, alleging violation of the Michigan Whistleblower’s Protection Act. RSJA strategically chose to file an early motion for summary disposition instead of an answer to the complaint, which the court granted. RSJA also successfully defended the appeal from the circuit court judgment and secured a favorable appellate court ruling affirming the dismissal of all claims against our clients.
2019 WL 5092617 (Mich Ct App, October 10, 2019). We have successfully handled many cases brought by property owners and others challenging the decisions of zoning administrators, zoning boards, and planning commissions. In this case, two neighboring associations were locked in a dispute over whether one association could use its lakefront property to provide docking and overnight boating privileges to its non-lakefront association members. During the litigation, RSJA successfully defended the township’s interpretation and application of several ordinances. RSJA obtained a circuit court judgment affirming a decision of the township zoning board of appeals, which recognized certain nonconforming rights of the association seeking to dock the boats. We also successfully defended the decision of the township planning commission to approve a special land use permit to allow certain docking activities. Additionally, RSJA won an appeal filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals challenging the planning commission’s approval of the special land use permit.
2018 WL 4478821 (E.D. Mich., Sept. 19, 2018). After the township issued building permits, it discovered that the plaintiff intended to build a nightclub-like swingers club, complete with a sports bar and state-of-the-art dance club, which were not the uses represented to the township in the permit applications and were not permitted uses in the C-2 general commercial zoning district. Plaintiff sued after the township issued a stop work order and revoked its building permits. RSJA successfully defended the township and township officials against claims brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for alleged due process, equal protection, and First Amendment violations, conspiracy, and state law claims, securing dismissal of all claims against all defendants with prejudice.
2020 WL 1487708 (Mich Ct App, March 24, 2020). This case involved allegations of trespass and negligent construction of a bike path in the public right-of-way. RSJA filed an early motion for summary disposition based on governmental immunity and secured a circuit court judgment dismissing the allegations with prejudice. Plaintiff moved for reconsideration and filed an appeal, raising new and different claims with each filing, including due process and First Amendment violations, takings, gross negligence, and challenges to the highway by user statute. We secured a favorable judgment from the Michigan Court of Appeals affirming the dismissal of all claims against the township with prejudice.
2018 WL 3039884 (Mich Ct App, June 19, 2018). Plaintiff filed suit after she tripped and fell on a sidewalk, arguing that her claim fell within the highway exception to governmental immunity because of the alleged existence of a vertical discontinuity in the sidewalk at the time of her fall of two or more inches. RSJA won dismissal of the complaint in circuit court and successfully defended the circuit court judgment on appeal.
Oakland County Circuit Court Case No. 2015-147320-AA. Plaintiff filed an appeal in circuit court from the zoning board’s denial of a variance from the City’s off-street parking ordinance. A variance was required in order for plaintiff to use a concrete parking slab she installed in the road right-of-way. RSJA defended against the claims and obtained a judgment affirming the zoning board’s decision denying the variance.
697 Fed. Appx. 445 (6th Cir 2017). Plaintiff brought a purported class action, raising constitutional and statutory challenges to defendants’ authority to collect delinquent property taxes through tax foreclosure sales under the Michigan General Property Tax Act. RSJA succeeded in securing favorable district court and appellate court judgments on behalf of two municipal clients and their officials.